Wednesday 5th April 2017
Cooper Box London
7:30 pm Tip Off
The London Lions enter Wednesday night’s home game against the Newcastle Eagles knowing a win will guarantee them postseason basketball in 2017. The second-placed Eagles are entering the game having lost 3 of their last 4 but the 6-time playoff champions will be confident of collecting a 4th win against the Lions this year.
The Lions have been in poor form of late, losing 4 of their last 6, including two losses to the 10th place Cheshire Phoenix, and are winless at home to Newcastle since December 2013, but have also demonstrated some fantastic basketball along the way.
The Lions’ swingman Navid Niktash gave a rallying call to his teammates this week, quoted in the Daily Star as saying “We are a really good team, but it’s just about playing the way where we are the best.” Head coach Nigel Lloyd will be hoping the star forward’s word will ring in his teammate’s ears as the Lions enter the run in needing to improve their form ready for the post season.
Players to watch for the Lions:
Zaire Taylor, PG, #11. Lions
The 2013/14 BBL MVP will need to be at his best tonight if the Lions hope to stand any chances of picking up the win. Taylor is one of the leading passers in the BBL averaging 6.3 assists per game and can be a lights-out shooter averaging 16.1 points per game. The key for Taylor will be to limit turnovers, the Lions have been punished after giving up the ball and as their floor general, Taylor must make sure his passes meet the target.
Navid Niktash, SG/SF/PF, #8. Lions
The 6’8″ swingman can play any role from Shooting Guard to Power Forward. Niktash has the ability to attack the rim but has good shooting from beyond the arc. Niktash is an incredibly passionate player who draws the attention of opposition players and fans alike. Niktash’s strengths are his scoring which he can do from anywhere on the floor and his plus defence. Niktash is liable to get himself into foul trouble as he lets his ferocious and infectious passion for the game get the better of him.
Rashad Hassan, F, #22, Lions
The 6’8″ forward who is more than capable of playing Center is leading the scoring charts in the BBL averaging 20.1 points per game. Hassan finishes at the rim with impunity and dominates defenders in the post allowing him to rack up points and has also lead him to top 3 in rebounds. Hassan is an exciting player to watch finish at the hoop and will quickly rack up points. Hassan is a strong player with the only downside being his speed getting back on defence.
The Newcastle Eagles are the most successful team in BBL history. Their team is made up of former league champions lead by veteran head coach Fabulous Flournoy who made his BBL debut in 1995. The Eagles will rely on inside scoring and exceptional defence tonight as they will look to shut down the Lions starters.
Players to Watch for the Eagles:
Rahmon Fletcher, #44, PG, Eagles
The reigning league MVP enters tonight’s game second in the scoring table behind Hassan averaging 19.8 points per game. Incredibly, despite the trend in basketball to embrace the 3 ball, the 5’10” Fletcher does most of his work scoring inside. Flecther also leads the assists table, so look for him to move the ball as well as get his own shots. Averaging just 3 turnovers a night Fletcher is one the Lions must stop if they hope to win.
DeAndre Parks, #6, G, Eagles
Standing 6’1″, Parks is enjoying success in his first season of British Basketball. The Flint Michigan native is fourth in scoring heading into tonight averaging 18.8 points per game mixing up his scoring more evenly between 2 and 3 point field goals. Parks is third in 3 point percentage scoring on 45% of shots from beyond the arc. Parks is an able scorer, but his defensive numbers are behind those of his teammates. This could be a point to exploit for the Lions.
Fabulous Flournoy, #20, Player/Coach, Eagles
44-year-old Flournoy is defying age to still dominate the BBL, much like he has done since in 1996 debut for the Birmingham Bullets. The 6’3″ Guard shifts the rock for the Eagles, ranking as their second leading assists provider. Whilst not averaging much in the way of points, Flournoy is putting his vast experience of winning and leading by example both on and off the floor for the Eagles whilst battling for an average of 4.37 rebounds per game.
Roundup: Both sides are capable of playing fast paced exciting basketball. The Lions have the capacity to be aggressive and score almost at will when the mood takes them. They will need to attack Newcastle with everything they have and sure up some defensive lapses if they hope to get the win tonight. Newcastle is capable of scoring inside but will have to negate the defence of Niktash and Hassan, both strong rim protectors and rebounders.
Prediction: BBL fans will be in for an exciting game of basketball tonight, both teams like to score and are lead by tremendous scorers. All of the previous 4 games between the two sides have been close, high scoring encounters and I expect tonight to be no different.
I can see the Eagles just edging it, but as Navid Niktash said, “Everybody can beat everybody in this league”.